>Talking Animals

>In general, for any species, there might be a talking, intelligent version, as well as the mute, bestial version that we are familiar with.

Some sages believe that apes and humans form such a pair. Yet there are rumours of bestial humans, and what of the Ape-Rajahs of the brass-walled City of Dust? Though some say that they are not true apes.

Teleleli is home to large numbers of talking animals, particularly cats, dogs, and mice.

Talking cats reach about five feet tall in adulthood. Young adults (toms and queens) rather remind one of characters from The Three Musketeers.

Normal cats have the ability to sense entrances to the underworld, and the desire to enter them (this is why they spend so much time under houses, and why they frequently disappear, never to be seen again). Some believe that talking cats have a dim echo of this sense.

Courting among talking cats involves toms displaying agility, for example by balancing on a fence, while playing the bagpipes. Talking cats are unique in their love of this instrument. Its music also affords the toms further ability to display their grace, by dodging the objects thrown at them by the neighbours. Queens are only allowed to court toms on one day of the year, the holiday Lost Saturday. This rule, being the command of the church, is universally obeyed, just as in our own society sex outside of marriage is unknown.

Although I have been unable to determine its truth, there is widespread agreement that a talking cat’s fur colour indicates a particular talent, as follows:

Black Held to have the ability to wish bad luck, especially hunger, on those who oppose them.
White, or van (coloured ears, rest of the body white): Believed to be lucky.
Grey “In the night all cats are grey” the Telelelenes say, since such cats are believed to excel in being stealthy at night.
Orange Believed to excel in predicting the weather.
Tortiseshell (black and orange patches) Said to excel in thwarting snakes, scorpions, spiders and like creatures, both normal and talking. Legend says that a tortiseshell cat defended the Tree of All Beasts from demons in the form of venomous animals, and was given this ability as a reward.
Tabby (light grey and dark grey-black stripes) Credited with an uncanny nack of locating hidden treasure.
Paws, chest, and lower face white – upper face, ears, legs, back and tail black Believed to excel in all matters pertaining to love, the home, marriage, and children.
Paws, chest, and lower face white – upper face, ears, legs, back and tail of any colour other than black Believed to excel in attracting the admiration of others (a most valued attribute for this generally vain and superficial folk).

Talking mice are about four feet tall, and generally have a similar style to talking cats.

Both talking cats and mice are physically ideal for the profession of burglar, but they are usually handicapped by their immense vanity in the first case, and their sense of fair play in the second. There are many famous cat-burglars, but few who are said to have lived for long. Some talking mice have become pirates, but talking cats generally disdain the sea – perhaps they retain some of their ancestral dislike of water.

Talking dogs can be any size from three feet to higher than the tallest human. Strangely, the variety of breeds in mute dogs is reflected in talking dogs. They believe that they were made thus by the Great Race. These theories are at least more credible than talking cats’ belief that they were created from the sneeze of a lion. The largest talking dogs of all are those with wolfish blood. True talking wolves are thankfully not seen in the city, but they are the terror of the forests.

Gangs of talking cats and dogs often fight each other. The main issue is religion, with one species being mostly Catolic, the other Eastern Orthodogs (except for some who follow the teachings of Martin Woofer).

Talking sea creatures can sometimes be seen in Teleleli, particularly around the docks. The mercantile Sell-Fish, ever seeking new markets, uses its fins as feet in order to walk on land. While on land, talking fish carry un-brellas. These devices look like umbrellas, but drop a constant stream of water on the talking fish. Talking dolphins transform into human form. Their human bodies are hairless, slim and muscular. They are said to have a city underwater, location unknown. In some accounts it is destroyed.

Talking sea creatures are largely uninterested in the religious conflict between dogs and cats. However they are sometimes the target of zealots from both communities, because of their liberal attitutes. For example prawnography is openly sold, and they have produced Salmon Rushdie, author of the controversial novel The Sardinic Verses. To protect themselves they have trained a force of Navy Seals.

Talking weasels are likewise uninterested in religious conflicts, due to their belief in the seperation of church and stoat.

Talking cockroaches, or Roaches of Al-Shahab, are about the size of a wolf or foal. They keep the streets reasonably clean by eating garbage. This reduces disease, and can keep away the eggs of many dangerous creatures such as the Invisible Worm Which Flies in the Night. Thus it is dangerous to drive them away, despite their many revolting habits. One such is that they dig up cemeteries. Although even this ensures that a place will not be infested by ghouls, who do not always limit themselves to those already dead. Another is their willingness to work with criminals such as the Bright Company, who use them to dispose of bodies.

Talking snails, turtles and tortises often find the pace of other creatures difficult to adjust to. Thus many of them live in the Slowtown district. Outsiders who enter this walled-off area are required to wear modified diving suits to slow them down. The economy of this district is largely based on the silver found in the trails which talking snails leave behind them.

Talking beavers mostly live in rural areas. However there is a small colony in Teleleli, who were driven here when their dam was destroyed by human farmers. Many of them listen to the bitter talking beaver Clint Eatwood who has sworn that he will take revenge, forcing the farmers to “go ahead punk – make my dam.”

Where most talking creatures are close to human-size, talking birds are the same size as their mute equivalents. Naturally many live atop the Roofs.

Lizard-folk are not talking animals, since their bodies are halfway between a human and lizard form.

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